Adrienne Harris, 19 July 2019
Sexualities and Diversity

We bring to life in the ejournal an issue on Sexualities and Diversity. This issue appears in midsummer 2019 to coincide and be in dialogue with many of the events and papers and panels at the IPA Congress in London.  Fascinatingly, even provocatively titled 'The Feminine', the  program in London is a rich and highly diverse approach and response to the enigma of the conference title. 'The Feminine' is celebrated, deconstructed, translated, reconfigured and used to explore a wide array of clinical and theoretical questions.

We could say the same about this set of essays, though making, we hope, a  more modest claim. Bringing together two essays from each of our four partners, we nonetheless open the complexity and range of thinking about Sexualities, even as we insist on the plural formation while the Congress has asked its readers and writers and contributors to think of the feminine perhaps as generic. In both situations, the Congress and the ejournal there is great scope for diversity and difference.

In this collection, we can see the range of interests that seem inevitably to come to life: clinical (Pellegrini & Saketopoulou, Okada, Imhorst ) theoretical (AndrĂ©, Harris, Lage Leite ) and cultural/clinical (Adler and Kogan).  Yet these distinctions will not stay stable. Each entry finds it necessary to interrogate basic terms, find new language and new meaning, drawing on new kinds of clinical experience and new theory in order to do justice to this topic.

It must be said that there is scarcely any topic in psychoanalysis that draws down as much lightening, fear, fantasy and fascination as sexuality, particularly at this moment. But we must remember that sexuality, in the child, in the nursing couple, in the emerging adult, in dyads, in triads and in systems, and in trauma was the first object of interest in psychoanalysis and surely never not a provocation, a problem, a relief and  an initiating question.

Here we are well into the second psychoanalytic century and still unsettled. Perhaps that is one of the signs of health in our field. Amidst the ferment and creativity, it is particularly important, in this ejournal context, that we are attentive to the massive and subtle cultural differences. Where do we move easily, where is our caution important and useful, when do we fear criticism and argument, whether we are working in more traditional or less traditional ways?

I think we need also to be sensitive to the generational differences and to notice the changing impact of the legal, social and political environment, both inside and outside psychoanalysis.  We think that this set of essays allows a broad reach across all these variables. 

We can notice for example: 
  • How much we need to attend, as psychoanalysts, to the complex forms of identification and disidentification in various relational configuration.
  • How differently we make use of biology/constitution and relational ties
  • How complex  identifications and sexual histories are in the interface with questions of gender, of culture, of race, and of diagnosis.
  • The degree of tact and clinical sensitivity required in negotiating gender nonbinary and trans identifications.
  • The determination across these essays to hold the social, the embodied and the unconscious in close interaction.
  • The theoretical pluralities representented in these essays: from traditional psychoanalytic  theory with an attention to drive theory, through the critique of drive from Laplanche and his attention to alterity as the initiating force in sexualization, through the focus on cultural and interpersonal processes as the site of sexual identifications.